Cabinet meets over schoolboy suicides

The suicides in the past fortnight of two 13-year-old schoolboys who had been tormented by bullies have shocked Japan and again raised serious questions about the nation's highly competitive education system. An emergency cabinet meeting was held yesterday to discuss the problem of ijime, or bullying, in schools, which is often pushed to extreme lengths in Japan but is systematically under-reported by schoolteachers who fear professional criticism. Ironically only minutes after the meeting ended the death of the second boy - as yet unnamed - was announced on television.

The case which sparked the national uproar was the discovery by his mother of Kiyoteru Okochi's body, hanging from a persimmon tree in the garden of his house on 27 November. The boy, from Nishio in Aichi prefecture in central Japan, left behind a four-page suicide note saying he could no longer stand the beatings and extortion of money he had suffered for over a year at the hands of bullies in school.

However, it was over a week before details of the case emerged. Initially the boy's school tried to cover up the suicide by reporting it to the local education board as a "sudden death". The headmaster also told the school's pupils not to talk about the death in public. When the suicide was published in the press, the headmaster finally apologised.

The boy's father, Yoshiharu Okochi, while accepting some of the blame for himself, has bitterly attacked the education system, which he claims is too preoccupied with getting pupils to pass exams at the expense of everything else.

"Schools are very good at giving pupils knowledge, but they aren't able to understand how the children feel," he said in a telephone interview. "The pupils must be very unsure whom they can talk with when they have a problem, because the school doesn't want to listen."

Mr Okochi said he took his son on a holiday to Australia at the beginning of last month after suspecting he was having trouble at school. But the boy denied to his father that he was being bullied. Three weeks later he was dead.

According to the Education Ministry, 23,358 cases of bullying were reported last year and 31 schoolchildren committed suicide. The critics claim school violence is exacerbated by the pressures of an exam system that forces children as young as 12 to attend cramming schools to improve their marks in the hope of eventually aspiring to a job with a top company.

In a special report on bullying issued yesterday, the Education Ministry itself partially admitted some of these criticisms. The report called on teachers to pay more attention to the problems of stress and competition among students to pass entrance exams. The report said that in a survey of senior high schools, only 14 per cent of pupils said they were satisfied with school life. But there were no concrete suggestions in the report on how teachers should learn to pick up the cries for help of pupils being driven to despair by bullying.

"I'm sorry, I wanted to live longer," wrote Kiyoteru Okochi in his suicide note. "Father, thank you for the trip to Australia; Mother, thank you for making tasty food; older brother, sorry for being an inconvenience." Having explained how he had been repeatedly dunked in a river until he feared he would drown, and was forced to give money on many occasions to his tormentors, Kiyoteru concluded: "These days they bully me so hard and demand large sums of money although I have none. I can't st a nd it any more."

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Fans hold up a scarf at West Ham vs Liverpool
footballAfter Arsenal's clear victory, focus turns to West Ham vs Liverpool
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
News
news
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Sport
football
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Qualified Primary Teaching Assistant

£64 - £73 per day + Competitive rates based on experience : Randstad Education...

Primary KS2 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Primary NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Primary NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam